Liturgy and Spirituality

Rev Dr Gordon Wakefield

Spirituality is seen as a convenient category into fit diverse phenomena. Aidan Kavanagh: liturgy is not prayer, it is rite which embraces much more than prayer – credal assertions, proclamations, acclamations, gestures, sights, non-verbal sounds, smells. There is much in liturgy that is subliminal, which makes revision difficult and dangerous. Schemann would prefer 'the Christian life' for spirituality. Spirituality is what makes us tick. Much also is subliminal: my practice may be Catholic, or my creed liberal, but I may be controlled by a submerged evangelical, books etc or what mother taught me long ago.

Liturgy helps shape spirituality; no such thing as prayer outside the church. Our private devotion should be related to weekly worship. The daily office is one way, valuable when no words come to our lips and the surface of our hearts numb (Micklem). Kavanagh says liturgy takes precedence: private prayer may sometimes do more harm than good whereas in liturgy  all laid before Cross; liturgy restrains spirituality which can become self-indulgent. Yet people not finding in liturgy proper expression of their spirituality, therefore spontaneity, dance.

What is proper place of penitence in liturgy; should it be extraliturgical as in Catholic and Orthodox traditions? Something pathological about Cranmer's liturgies? Yet consulting rooms full of the guilty. Guilt not simply pathological. Also penitence not just grubbing about in sin but result of adoration (Gerontius, 'take me away!) Yet after Seraphim Isaiah cries 'Woe is me, I am undone'. So Cranmer. Also, there is 'felix culpa' when sin kindles divine wrath but unveils love in new light. Baptised, we know that salvation not depend on us but on finished work of Christ.

Volume 20 Spring 1989, p5
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